Thursday, April 24, 2008

Me and Rustbucket

Well I think I am really starting to go turn into a Euro.

First of all, I am now speaking french 2 full days each week in the office. That might not sound like a lot, but it is and it's exhausting! It's quite easy to "bavarder" (chat) in French but it gets a bit more difficult to try and explain things and understand things work related that people are telling you. But I have to say it is good practice which I really need. Thursdays it is just with the 2 girls in my office and on Fridays, some brilliant lad that I work with started "French Fridays" where all the English speakers have to speak French. This is actually quite humorous to speak French with other Americans and Brits and Russians and South Africans and other people who don't normally speak french. Anyway it's a "bonne initiative" although today for example, I got so fed up with a situation that I switched to English for the remainder of the day to make it easier for me (and bought a chocolate, also to make it easier).

Second and more notably, I bought a bike last weekend. There is a secondhand bike shop in town and in my opinion, they just go around Geneva, steal bikes and resell them. That or pull them out of the lake because they are all a bit shabby looking. But they work. I got a silver one and put a basket on it and voila! I'm ready to ride around town. I fully intended to name it "the silver bullet," but it doesn't sound quite right for its personality. And like I said, it's a bit from hunger. So, I have christened my bike Rustbucket.

Geneva is actually an awesome city for biking because there are true bike paths everywhere to make it really easy and safe to get around by bike. In fact at some cross walks they even have separate "bike lights" that you cross when that is flashing. Not to mention the fact that you can ride around the lake and check out the French Alps every day of the week. And when you ride in the other direction, you can see other mountains. Yes, just one of the small bonuses about living in Switzerland. Anyway my adventure this week was to take my bike to work! Fortunately, my office is kind of away from town. Well, let me rephrase that. It is nowhere near town. It could actually be closer to France than town. But that means that I can walk through neighborhoods and stuff (and not like the gross pigeon filled sidewalk under the Quincy L stop for example) to get there which is nice. It is also right by the airport which is super convenient for traveling and even BETTER for when you have conference calls and can look out the window at all the planes. Anyway, currently I take the tram about 6-8 minutes and walk about 15 minutes to get to work. On Wednesday morning, I woke up with a slight hangover and pleasantly surprised to see it had stopped raining for seriously, the first time in a month. So I quickly got dressed, grabbed some work clothes, and hopped on Rustbucket.

The only unfortunate thing about the ride to work is it is up a long, gradual incline. Not exactly what you want to be doing first thing in the morning. But that is just the first half or so and the rest is not to bad. It takes me now about 15 minutes door to door which is awesome. Then I go upstairs to work and quickly turn on my crappy laptop, which takes about 10 minutes to boot up, run down to the fitness, get naked, say "bonjour!" to all the other naked ladies, shower up, more naked bonjours, get dressed and run back up to work and voila! In about the same time as it took me to get to work previously, I have gotten a bit of exercise and showered. Cool!

Going home is of course super fun because it's all downhill. In fact it's a little fast for little Rustbucket, and we have to apply the brakes gently so as not to crash into a bush. But two days in a row now, Rustbucket and I went to and from work. And I took my bicycle to French lessons tonight.

All that's missing now is a beret.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over

It's over.

The first major chapter of my stay in Switzerland has closed. Today was the last day of the ski season, my second season here and likely to be the last "season" I ever have in my life. I actually felt a little emotional when getting up to go on the chair the last time today. Let's face it, I will NOT be driving to Alpine Valley every weekend when I get back to the U.S. Snowboarding and skiing in the midwest is just awful and not worth it. It is absolutely freezing, the conditions are terrible AND the runs are like 25 feet long. Hopefully I will go out to Vail or Jackson next winter (I am taking 3 months off work, so anyone who wants to go on a ski me!)

So Bhav and I went to Flaine which is in France. By the way I almost always went to France - only Crans Montana, Leysin and Zermatt which I went to are in Switzerland. We got there and did a few runs and then decided to have another picnic because it was super sunny. This one was mildly more successful than our last one - there were lots of other people picnicking too. But of course as soon as we sat down we were battling clouds until the moment we finished. It was yummy though - a nice multi grain bread, avocado and cheese. With apple crumble and coffee for dessert (we got that bit in the resto). It amazes me how the Swissies and Frenchies eat when skiing - it's not uncommon to see someone get tartiflette, which I have not had yet, but it is basically potatoes, cheese, cream, onions and bacon...sounds good but during the middle of a ski day? And then wash it down with a chocolate tart and a bottle of wine. And how are Americans the fattest country in the world? Because I guess the Euros still do 4 hours of skiing after, whereas we tune in to a marathon of "The Hills."

After lunch we got serious and snowboarded for the rest of the day without stopping (unusual for us as we get tempted by various apero bars located all over the mountain). We did two or three runs on one side of the mountain and then kept taking this one awesome run. The chairlift to get up was HUGE. It was an 8 person chair which I have never seen. It was like sitting on a really comfy sofa that flew through the air at super high speed! Also it went over a waterfall and a bunch of trees. Cool. The run itself was great, starting off with a big open bowl at the top and opening into a wide flat bit where we practiced riding goofy (the other way), then narrowing up before dropping you down a steep mogully slushy bit which dropped into a flat bit and you went super super fast! Then more steep and narrow and then steep and wide and then just normal and back to the sofa chair. We went nonstop for about 3 hours and then finished off the day with a kir royale in the sunshine.

We totally passed out on the skibus and when we got back, our driver said thanks and announced that it was the last bus and he would see us all for another season and everyone clapped and cheered. It was cool but a little sad too.

Welllll in any case, this was a bonne saison all around, not just on my board, and with the exception of the few weeks I was trapped in major study lockdown for my work exams, I think I made the most of it.

I will remember the most:

-My first ski lesson in a blizzard

-My second ski lesson when I almost died and some nice guy saved my life (he was like 45, don't get any ideas)

-The amazing views in Chamonix when snowshoeing quietly through the woods, where all you could hear was the snow crunching underfoot

-The taste of a delicious pizzwich at the top of Signal in Les Contamines

-The adorable town of Les Gets and its super slopes

-Being on top of the world in a huge flying bumblebee balloon

-Seeing the Mont Blanc every single weekend

-Someone always pointing the Mont Blanc out to me every weekend

-When I took a snowboard lesson and got my confidence back (and have kicked ass ever since, ha!)

-When I would swing my ice ax just right and hit a sweet spot

-Sitting up top of a huge piece of ice I climbed and not hearing anything except people sniffling and carribeaners gently clinking together

-The first time I rode goofy and turned 5 consecutive times (and promptly fell on my ass)

-The awesome orange apero bar in Crans Montana

-Flying at super speed down the Nantes-Rouge run in Contamines

-Hearing the sound of the waterfall coming down the run today

-When I successfully took a button lift without falling!! (after falling twice before)

-The shots of Jaegermeister Bhav made us do at ONE PM

-The huge white slopes

-The wide blue skies

-The sunshine

-My last run

It was a good season.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


A short post about snails.

Seriously, it has been raining and cold all week which is unusual, as I heard the weather in Chicago is nicer than here. Incroyable!! This is GOOD news for me because that means it is probably still snowing in the mountains and that will give me another weekend of snowboarding. Hooray!

On my way home from work however, I spotted a snail on the ground in the rain. I have honestly never seen a live snail crawling around outside of Switzerland when it rains. However here I see them all the time. He was totally sprawled out and everything, and I picked him up and he curled up inside his shell, just like they say. It just amazes me sometimes the things that you will find here walking home from work that you would never see in Chicago. Or has anyone ever spotted a snail outside of say, the Tin Lizzie (also known as in my opinion the worst bar in Chicago)?

By the way, if you have never eaten escargots, they are DELICIOUS and if you are a picky eater, go with a friend who is not and have them order it and get some bread to dip in the yummy garlicy herby buttery escargot-ey deliciousness sauce. YUM!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Have you read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown? Or are you a big nerd? If either of those is true, you are probably familiar with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Both are true for me which is what piqued my interest in visiting CERN, and also this "open house" which was on Sunday.

As I understand it: CERN is a bad ass physics laboratory where scientists all over the world come to play and study and make cool new things happen. So they built this particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider and it goes underground - it's 3km (almost 2 miles) underground and 27km (about 17 miles) in circumference, spanning the Swiss and French borders. The LHC is new, and they are going to flip the switch I believe in the summer. It was open to the public to go underground on Sunday, which is where I went (after like 2 hours of waiting and 1 hour of taking random shuttle buses). What happens then is they send little particles zooming all around France and Switzerland at super high speeds. Then they smack them into each other, and it will re-create conditions that existed around the time of the Big Bang (or the "beeg bong" as I kept hearing the Frenchies call it). This will teach us more about the universe as we know it and such things like random particle masses that existed after the beeg bong and why the Cubs cannot win a world series (ok seriously, the answer must lie in science because there is no other explanation!!)

That is my layman's explanation of the LHC but you can read more about it yourself on the webpage dedicated to the new LHC. I basically spent my day wandering around CERN and its various sites and trying to learn about physics, which was quite complicated enough for me in school, when I was so horrible at physics that my reputation preceded me and most people refused to be my lab partner...Anyway a lot of the explanations were in French, about half of which I understood. You get my drift. It was also massively crowded because the open house was for ONE DAY ONLY and you see, even in Switzerland, people are not so refined that they can resist this kind of American gimmicky advertising!

Well CERN was interesting, but it won't make for much of a blog. I leave it to you, gentle reader, to explore the world wide web (which was invented at CERN) if you have more interest in these subjects. There's a lot of cool experiments going on over here!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Vampire Weekend

No, those are not my plans for tomorrow. It's a new CD I downloaded after being recommended by a guy I work with, Geoff, after his mate (friend, for those of us non-Brits) recommended it to him.

If you know me, you will know that I am obsessed with music. If you are a random person who has stumbled upon my blog, let me be the first to inform you, gentle reader: I am obsessed with music. I NEED it to function and survive, especially sometimes to get through mundane tasks like my job or cleaning house, and to be my happy self. As much as I love eating, if I had to give up either eating (assuming I would not die) or music, it would sadly be food. I think the iPod is the greatest invention ever for a music lover. What could possibly be better than having your entire musical collection with you wherever you go?! I am happy to report that I have a 4 year old iPod with the black and white screen...I think it was the last model they released before the color one.

Anyway I love music, almost any kind, and concerts, and live music, and finding new music. But unfortunately I live in the equivalent of the dark ages here in Switzerlandin that respect because I have no radio or really anyone who can give me suggestions of new things (or old) I have not heard of, especially because I have a rather limited social circle (and life for that matter).

But I downloaded the self-titled Vampire Weekend CD last night and it is REALLY cool! Apparently they have played on SNL and are playing at the Metro this Sunday, so maybe I am just totally behind the times. I really like it and recommend it.

So anyone have any musical suggestions for me? My tastes are fairly simple:

Generally I like happy, upbeat music (I do not like, for example, scary bands like Korn) and not stuff that is too weird (for example, 8 minutes of a digeridoo). I like also other genres that people often hate like country and I like good old fashioned classic rock. I am ready to spend spend spend on iTunes because I have been dying for some new music lately, so if you have any ideas please pass them my way!